Judging by the popularity of foreign-owned restaurants, hotels, and bars in major Nigerian cities, it is no doubt that international enterprise clearly dominates the Nigerian hospitality industry. Although, a sign of a thriving market economy, these conditions do more harm than good to prospects of economic growth in Nigeria.
Our obsession with the foreign and exotic hinders Nigeria’s growth by creating a foreign monopoly on our own local industries. A powerful example is the amount of foreign ownership in the list of the most popular hotels and restaurants in Lagos on popular travel website, TripAdvisor.com. Lagos is, of course, the commercial capital of our country as well as one of the seven megacities of Africa. Businesses that thrive in Lagos undoubtedly have a large impact on Nigeria’s overall economic growth – or lack thereof.
Consider this: out of the top ten hotels in Lagos ranked on TripAdvisor, only two are Nigerian-owned. The other eight establishments are owned by multinational corporations and foreign lodging franchises. The figures for restaurants are similar, with only two out of ten claiming to be proudly Nigerian.
Several of the establishments on this list has a number of successful branches all over Nigeria, as well as international ties that make them nearly difficult for the local enterprise to compete with. What’s worse, these establishments often import the ingredients, furniture, and equipment needed for the goods and services they provide, further aggravating Nigeria’s overdependence on imports. Why have we left the task of welcoming foreigners to the foreigners themselves?
The issue does not stop at the border of Lagos. With the rapid urbanization of rural towns and cities around Lagos and Abuja, foreign monopoly is slowly creeping across our country, crippling competition and leaving a trail of economic stagnation in its wake.
The monopoly of foreign-owned hospitality services in Nigeria is also damaging in its discriminatory employment tendencies. Foreign-owned enterprises often hire either solely expatriates from their home countries or Nigerians for second-rate jobs with second-rate wages.
This situation provides another case wherein Nigerians could afford to take a lesson from the rest of the world: economic nationalism. We as a people must show more support for the domestic enterprise. In addition to helping to guide us out of this economic recession, a rise in the local enterprise in the hospitality industry would create the job opportunities desperately needed by many.
Boosting domestic enterprise in the hospitality industry will allow Nigeria to put its abundant human resources to good use, thereby simultaneously ameliorating the unemployment crisis and providing more channels for economic growth and human development. We must begin to roll out the welcome mat by ourselves.
May God Bless the people of our beloved Country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A is a Political and International Affairs Analyst, based in Somerset, England, United Kingdom.